When I tell my friends I listen to metal, I get the look. That noisy stuff from the 80s and 90s? Didn’t that go away with goth and wine coolers? Shouldn’t I be listening to rock and classical, and complaining about pop music?
Well, yes. Put on Chopin’s Piano Concerto #2 in E minor or a good Tom Petty album, and I’m right there. But good metal is similar to good classical or good rock, if you know what to look for.
Go get Opeth’s Blackwater Park or Mastodon’s Once More Round the Sun and listen all the way through, at least two or three times. Never mind Opeth’s silly growling (yeah, that’s dated, but get past it. It’s a fantastic composition). And it’s okay to skip Mastodon’s High Road and get to the good stuff. Listen to the guitar riffs, and Brann Dailor playing the drums. Trust me, this is special stuff. The drummer isn’t supposed to be the linchpin of a band.
Maybe it won’t turn you on to metal, but after a few times through, I bet you start thinking, Wow, this part is nice. Maybe those metalheads are on to something.
You know what it is? It’s the same thing as with classical, rock, or even contemporary pop music: It’s the changes.
Whether it’s Bach’s third Brandenburg Concerto or Ember City, the parts that make you feel like you just drove over a rise into a smooth dip — and you’re waiting for your heart to catch up to the rest of you — that’s what makes the song great.
This is also true of books, and especially in fiction. Maybe a book is filed under action/adventure, or suspense, or thriller, but it’s the story changes that make it good, those little scenes where something surprising and exciting happens. Sometimes it’s a noisy scene, and sometimes the characters are quietly figuring out a problem — metal or classical — but the scene grabs you because of the striking, unexpected change in perspective, or in the challenge, or in the plot ...
Now hold that thought: striking changes in music or in literature. Listen to some Mastodon, or read the next book in your stack, and consider the changes. Tell me if I’ve got this right.